How AI technology can make mining more productive

By | 3 minute read | April 2, 2019

For more than 150 years, Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology has provided equipment and engineering solutions to the mining and rock excavation industry. A lot has changed over the past century and a half, and today we’re so much more than an equipment, parts and service company. We’re now also in the business of providing data-driven productivity solutions to our mining customers.

Preventing equipment breakdowns keeps productivity on track

In any mining or rock excavation process, the mine operator must orchestrate and manage equipment, sometimes from a control center far removed from the actual underground operation. If a machine breaks down inside a tunnel, it’s a logistical nightmare. Not only does it disrupt that tunnel’s operations, it affects everything in the excavation process that comes after that equipment’s function. In that regard, it’s also a productivity killer because nothing can happen until the machine is fixed.

Of course, mining companies conduct preventive maintenance. But what if they could predict and prevent what are now unanticipated breakdowns? And what if they could optimize their equipment use, for example, by not having to take a machine offline for scheduled maintenance when it’s not yet needed? Our equipment’s onboard instrumentation, sensors and data-gathering capabilities provided the perfect opportunity to help our customers do exactly that—and much more.

We already offered data-driven service solutions to our customers, but we knew that we, and they, weren’t maximizing the value of the data that all those sensors and instruments were generating. We wanted to apply advanced analytics to that data to help our customers identify and resolve productivity issues and optimize their overall processes and performance.

Mining data with AI for real-time insight

We chose IBM® for this project because of its Watson IoT™ and IBM Maximo® Asset Management solutions and its leadership in the use of AI for optimizing data-driven operations. And also because IBM truly understands the industry verticals in which we operate.

We’re working with IBM to deliver advanced analytics and AI technology through our OptiMine® Analytics service. The service, with IBM Watson IoT technology, transforms customers’ data into process improvement using predictive insights and actionable dashboards embedded into their mining operation management systems.

Using IBM predictive analytics helps us dive into real-time data to identify imminent and probable breakdowns. We can get to the root cause of problems faster and help our customers prevent equipment failure. We’ve already seen reductions in the impact of breakdowns on production losses in the tens of percentage points.

Increased awareness of the value of analytics

IBM and Sandvik’s partnership around OptiMine Analytics has been in place for more than a year, and we can really see how the interest from our customers has increased during 2018. Digitalization and predictive maintenance have become hot topics in most of our conversations. In fact, we just signed a contract with Vedanta to drive full digitalization at Hindustan Zinc’s SK Mine, where IBM is part of the OptiMine Analytics solution. Additionally, Sandvik hosted a Digitalization in Mining – Through the Rock event in Santiago, Chile. Our top customers were invited, and for two days we focused on exploring the future of digitalization in the mining industry. IBM was also a keynote speaker.

Transforming mining into a data-driven industry

We recognize that we’re really changing the mindset of an entire industry by focusing on data and data-driven productivity. We’re not just talking about improving equipment uptime; we’re talking about process optimization throughout the mining environment. We’re anticipating that our customers will increase safety and productivity, save money on maintenance and reduce time wasted when equipment is offline.

More data insight means better-planned maintenance and higher utilization levels of equipment. In turn, customers can set higher, yet achievable, production plans and goals because they’re better informed. We believe that, ultimately, this will lead to higher yield at a lower cost of ore per ton. And that’s something everyone in mining can get excited about. At the end of the day, we’re working with IBM to put intelligence to work by developing smarter, safer, more efficient operations not just for our customers, but for the whole industry.

See how Sandvik is putting Watson IoT to work in the mining industry: